Between this vegetarian cafe and a ‘Trump’ cafe in Texas, a political chasm

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A woman shouts slogans during a protest against the policies of U.S. President Donald Trump in New York City, U.S., February 17, 2017. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid - RTSZ7UC

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HARI SREENIVASAN: Public opinion polls show we live in a deeply divided country, particularly when it comes to politics. It’s been four months since the election, and just a few weeks into the new Trump administration. So how are voters responding?

The NewsHour’s William Brangham is just back from a reporting trip to Texas. He’s here with me now.

So, what exactly did you set out to do?

WILLIAM BRANGHAM: We wanted to talk to voters on both sides of the political spectrum.

So, we were in Texas. We went to two very different places. And I asked people basically four or five, six questions, identical questions in both places. And, as you will see, it’s as if voters are living in two completely different worlds.

Let’s take a look.

WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Bellville, Texas, is a small rural town an hour’s drive from Houston. Its streets are lined with single-family homes and locally owned shops.

But a recently-renamed restaurant in town has become something of an attraction, the Trump Cafe.

So, you changed the name to Trump Cafe two weeks before the election?

SUE HAWA, Owner, Trump Cafe: Before, yes, sir.

WILLIAM BRANGHAM: And what if Trump hadn’t won the election?

SUE HAWA: We don’t — you know, actually, we pray for God to he wins. I’m so glad he win. I’m so glad, you know?

WILLIAM BRANGHAM: So if Hillary Clinton had won, would this be Clinton Cafe?

SUE HAWA: No, I will move back home.

WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Sue Hawa owns the place with her husband. Trump memorabilia is everywhere. The big seller on the menu is the Trump Burger, onion rings, barbecue sauce, bacon, topped with an American flag.

As you might imagine, the Trump Cafe is full of Trump supporters; 80 percent of the county here voted for the president.

How was election night for you?

PHIL OXLEY, Texas: Oh, it was great. Man, I was on cloud nine. I was a Trump guy from day one.

WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Is that right? Day one?

PHIL OXLEY: Yes, from day one. Soon as he said it, I was like, we need something other than a politician.

JOYCE KNOLLE, Texas: I was so excited when he won, because I just believed in everything that he says. And we were so ready for a change, and he listened to the people.

WILLIAM BRANGHAM: A hundred miles west, and a political world apart, is Austin, the state capital, a liberal outpost in this red state.

We visited what is perhaps Austin’s version of the Trump Cafe, the Bouldin Creek Cafe, a vegetarian place in South Austin. Two-thirds of the county here voted for Hillary Clinton.

Chesley Allen is the general manager.

CHESLEY ALLEN, Bouldin Creek Cafe: It’s kind of the nexus, or the heart of what people think of when they think of Austin as the offbeat, funky, keep Austin weird, that sort of thing.

WILLIAM BRANGHAM: That’s where we are?

CHESLEY ALLEN: That’s where you are.

WILLIAM BRANGHAM: The day after President Trump’s inauguration, the cafe donated profits to the ACLU, the Southern Poverty Law Center and Planned Parenthood.

ISHRAT KUNDAWALA, Texas: Because I’m pretty sure that I fit almost every demographic that’s going to be ruined by this administration, and I feel like I have to speak out.

WILLIAM BRANGHAM: What was election night like for you?

ISHRAT KUNDAWALA: Brutal, devastating, heartbreaking.

KRYSTLE PAPIC, Texas: If I were to have a nightmare that night, then my nightmare would be a reality, because I definitely didn’t want Trump to win.

DYLAN STONECIPHER, Texas: My big fear with him is that he is coming out fast and hard with a lot of big stuff, but I really, truly believe that he is just trying to tire out his opposition.

WILLIAM BRANGHAM: To spend a few hours in these two places, talking to people on either side of the political divide, is to see just how deep the chasm is in our politics.

What have you made of his Cabinet picks so far?

NEVILLE REMMERT: I love every one of them.

WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Every one of them?

NEVILLE REMMERT: I love Betsy DeVos. I love her. I hope she does something about education. I love Sessions, Jeff Sessions. He is not a racist. It’s just ridiculous.

ISHRAT KUNDAWALA: I don’t know how he could’ve picked more unqualified people to run things like the Education Department, or Rick Perry for Energy. It’s a direct mirror of how much money — how much of a role money plays in politics.

WILLIAM BRANGHAM: The politics of the team running the White House, including Steve Bannon, former chairman of Breitbart News, has been a source of controversy.

There’s been a lot of questions raised recently about Steve Bannon. What is your…

NEVILLE REMMERT:  I love Steve Bannon. I think he’s great. He says what he says, means what he says. And that’s why they don’t like him. People who are just namby-pamby little me, me, they don’t like people who are outspoken.

WILLIAM BRANGHAM: You have any thoughts on Steve Bannon?

PHILLIP: Yes. He’s the devil incarnate.

WILLIAM BRANGHAM: The devil incarnate?

PHILLIP: Yes, he got the man elected. And so I guess he got a payback, so he made himself an adviser. But everything he stands for, I do not.

MICHELLE: I have a lot of Muslim friends, and friends who are also people of color, and so it’s just very disturbing to me how it could have progressed to such a state.

WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Patrons of these restaurants are also split on the news they trust.

What are your three or four main sources of news?

ISHRAT KUNDAWALA: I would say The Guardian, CNN, and, ironically — I, ironically, like PBS and NPR. So, I listen to NPR every morning.

PHIL OXLEY: I think it’s great that he’s on Twitter, because now we know what he is thinking every day.

WILLIAM BRANGHAM: No filter there.

PHIL OXLEY: Yes, there’s no filter.

DON BOYLE, Texas: It’s pretty much a bet that a mainline journalist is going to be not a conservative, be more in the school of being progressive and everything.

WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Where are the main sources of — when you want to find out what is going on?



NEVILLE REMMERT: I will not look at CNN. I get ill.

WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Straight-up FOX News viewer.


MAN: I’ll tell you what I did. I have a brother that watches FOX News constantly. And it’s on 24 hours a day, I think, at his house. They came here to Austin to visit me over Christmas, and the room he was staying in has a TV. And on the cable box, I blocked that station.

PHIL OXLEY: I have a sister who can’t stand the guy, and we still talk, but I try not to talk politics with her.

WILLIAM BRANGHAM: So, she’s still your sister, though?

PHIL OXLEY: Yes, she’s still my sister. She’s always going to be my sister.

WOMAN: We just don’t discuss it.


WOMAN: We don’t get into politics.

WILLIAM BRANGHAM: You know each other’s views, and you don’t talk about it?

WOMAN: Yes. I respect their views and I don’t — we just don’t talk politics.

WILLIAM BRANGHAM: The couple who runs the Trump Cafe say there’s a reason they’re open to all diners. Their own story seems to cross political divides.

So you’re a Palestinian Muslim couple that owns a cafe in Texas named the Trump Cafe. You understand how some people might think, that sounds like a bizarre combination.

SUE HAWA: I like my president. Actually, I like him because he’s a businessman. He know how to do business, you know? And, actually, what he is trying to do, it’s excellent.

WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Now, do you let Democrats eat here?

SUE HAWA: You know, welcome to — yes, you know, welcome to everyone like to come inside my restaurant.


SUE HAWA: My door open for everybody, you know, Republican, Democratic, same, you know.

WILLIAM BRANGHAM: For the PBS NewsHour, I’m William Brangham.

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